Robert Smith tells Ge­orge Gigney that he will al­ways strive to im­prove med­i­cal stan­dards

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BBBOFC Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Robert Smith re­flects on the past sea­son

AF­TER one of the big­gest sea­sons Bri­tish box­ing has ex­pe­ri­enced in years, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the Bri­tish Box­ing Board of Con­trol Robert Smith is un­der­stand­ably ex­cited about the fu­ture. Here, he looks back over the past sea­son and ahead to the up­com­ing one.

Look­ing back on the past sea­son, what are your thoughts?

It’s im­por­tant to put things into per­spec­tive, and the sea­son started with a tragic in­ci­dent with Mike Towell. It shook us to the core, it cer­tainly shook me to the core, and it was a very dif­fi­cult time for the sport, and for ev­ery­body in­volved in it, in­clud­ing ev­ery­body in this of­fice. But, as sport does, ev­ery­body gets to­gether and there is a bond in the sport when things do go wrong and ev­ery­body sup­ports each other, which they did. We moved on to, on the box­ing front, a very suc­cess­ful year, but we should never for­get what hap­pened at the start of the sea­son.

Even be­fore Mike Towell’s death there had been huge im­prove­ments in health and safety mea­sures around Bri­tish box­ing, since then what changes have been made?

You’re quite right, the sport has come on leaps and bounds in terms of med­i­cal pro­vi­sion over the years but, as I’ve said be­fore, this is a very tough com­bat sport and you’re never go­ing to make it 100 per cent safe. If you think about the amount of tour­na­ments and con­tests we’re hav­ing over the last few years – the more you do, the more chance of a prob­lem – and our is­sues are rel­a­tively small with re­gards to the num­bers, but when they do hap­pen they are dis­as­trous. With the amount of con­tests tak­ing place, our in­jury level is very low – that doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean we should sit on our lau­rels, we have sem­i­nars on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, we do re­search into the use of our MRI scans for ex­am­ple. As an or­gan­i­sa­tion we are look­ing into ways of mak­ing it bet­ter, but you’re never go­ing to make it 100 per cent and I think ev­ery­body who takes part knows that.

So look­ing at the past sea­son, what jumps out as the high­lights for you?

Joshua-kl­itschko, the event it­self was a won­der­ful oc­ca­sion. [David] Haye-[tony] Bellew was a great night, we’ve had many great nights. See­ing Jorge Linares come over here and per­form the way he did was fan­tas­tic, watch­ing Er­rol Spence and Ger­vonta Davis come here was great, real world-class overseas box­ers, it was won­der­ful to see. We have our own world-class box­ers but it’s good to pit our­selves against the best, and they were three great fight­ers. We’ve got more shows go­ing on, more box­ers, ev­ery­thing’s look­ing good. When you’re look­ing at events, Joshua-kl­itschko has to be up there but there are oth­ers. I re­mem­ber walk­ing away from [Gen­nady] Golovkin-[kell] Brook and think­ing ‘I’ve just watched one of the great­est fight­ers we’ll see.’

We’ve seen a shift in re­cent years, with Bri­tish box­ing be­com­ing a ma­jor fo­cus in the world, and more world-class box­ers are fight­ing in the UK.

We are suc­cess­ful and suc­cess breeds suc­cess, I’ve al­ways said that. It goes in cy­cles, we’re go­ing to try and main­tain that as best we can, there’ll be a dip at some point but we’ll do our best to make sure it doesn’t dip too low. When­ever I go to con­ven­tions abroad peo­ple al­ways speak to me about box­ing in the UK and how we’re do­ing so well. The pro­mot­ers de­serve credit for putting on these great events – and it’s not just a box­ing tour­na­ment any­more, it’s an event. So­ci­ety’s changed, when peo­ple spend their money they want to go out and have a re­ally good night and I think pro­mot­ers un­der­stand that now, even the smaller shows. They’re giv­ing some­thing more than box­ing, there’s more en­ter­tain­ment.

You spoke about Haye-bellew, there were dif­fi­cul­ties be­fore­hand with how both men be­haved, and the same hap­pened with Dil­lian Whyte and Dereck Chisora – is there enough in­cen­tive for box­ers to act ac­cord­ingly?

I do think, to be a great boxer and great cham­pion, you need to be­have your­self prop­erly out­side the ring as well. It does dis­ap­point me when we have world-class box­ers feel the need to disparage their op­po­nents or say things you wouldn’t want said in front of chil­dren. I think we saw that this sea­son and those in­di­vid­u­als have been pun­ished. But you can’t take away from the ac­tual con­tests them­selves, both those con­tests were ex­cep­tion­ally ex­cit­ing. I know they’re two dif­fer­ent an­i­mals, but Mr Joshua and Mr Kl­itschko had more peo­ple who maybe weren’t box­ing fans at that event be­cause of the way they be­haved.

How do you think Bri­tish box­ing deals with the is­sue of per­for­mance en­hanc­ing drugs?

We do a great deal of test­ing, both in com­pe­ti­tion and out, and I met UKAD [UK Anti-dop­ing] last week to re­view last year and look ahead to next year. We’re very, very con­cerned about what peo­ple would do to try and cheat, which could be detri­men­tal to not just their health but their op­po­nent’s health. We’re well aware of the is­sues, but ev­ery sport has this prob­lem. We’re very lucky in this coun­try as we have ex­cel­lent gov­ern­ing bod­ies, but it’s a hard bat­tle to win. We’re deal­ing with hu­man be­ings and un­for­tu­nately some of them lie and cheat. Whether we’ll get it 100 per cent, I don’t know, but we’ll try.


WHERE IT COUNTS: Af­ter a frac­tious build-up, Haye [left] and Bellew de­liver a thrilling fight

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